“Nature Fakers?” Whaaa?

Okay, I first have to admit to a bizarre little habit—a curious tic in my nature that probably stems from the compulsivity of my Asperger’s. But every evening I absolutely have to look at Wikipedia on my iPhone or iPad and see what the featured article is. And maybe two-thirds of the articles are anything interesting and I’ll skim the provided snippet. Less than half of those are so interesting that I bother to click over to the full article. But every now and then one comes up and I just go, “Huh.”

Tonight’s is about a Nature Fakers controversy from the late 1800s to early 1900s. I had never heard of this, and I have to say I find it both strange and intriguing that there was a six-year fight in open media (newspapers) about it. Basically it had to do with the romanticization of wildlife and nature in popular literature at the time. Some actual naturalists didn’t like all the stories about the friendly grizzly bears or whatever. So they denounced the stories, and then the authors and their fans fought back, and then Teddy Roosevelt got involved . . . Seriously. You can read all about it.

I suppose we still have open debates of this kind, usually in the form of dueling reviews and comments on blogs or whatever. And maybe the naturalists ended up doing themselves a disservice by getting readers interested in the books they were publicly arguing against. That’s how it works a lot of the time.

Still, there’s something to be said for keeping up with a nightly Wiki entry. Though you have to wonder who in the world sat down and said, “I need to write an entry about the Nature Fakers controversy. People need to know about that.”

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